I made Pasta alla Norma.
Let me rephrase that.
I made Zoodles alla Norma.
One word: epic.
Another word: simple.
Another word: healthy.
Three words I like to use, especially when it comes to cooking. And I know you do too. Right?
If you’re not familiar with Pasta alla Norma, let me do a little explaining.
Pasta alla Norma is one of the most famous Sicilian recipes in the world. It was named after Sicilian composer Bellini's hugely successful opera Norma.
It’s a pasta dish that uses eggplants, tomatoes, garlic, basil, and olive oil. A good amount of olive oil as a matter of fact.
The eggplants are fried then added to a garlicky tomato sauce and served over pasta sprinkled with fresh basil and aged ricotta salata.
What is ricotta salata?
Ricotta salata is a variation of ricotta that has been pressed, salted and dried. It’s a slightly sour medium-hard cheese that gives to Pasta alla Norma a unique rustic flavor.
It's the traditional cheese used for this dish — but who knows how many times I’ve made Pasta alla Norma using Pecorino or Parmesan cheese with excellent results.
Gourmets will tell you that using ricotta salata sets apart serious Pasta alla Norma from the mundane version.
But since it’s not easy to find, I say go with Pecorino or Parmesan if that’s what you have. It’s still going to be amazing.
For my version I used zoodles and let me tell you, it was a perfect choice.
The sauce is thick, very thick. And full of flavor. And it complements the zoodles so well, I can’t tell you enough about it.
I chose to slice the eggplants into half moons. You could also chop ‘em up in even sized chunks, your call.
I also used canned diced tomatoes because well, I’m lazy. But if you have fresh tomatoes, go with those.
What I like about these Zoodles alla Norma is that it is such a filling and healthy meal.
Yes, the eggplants are fried — not deep fried though, just fried. But there are tomatoes and zucchini. I mean there are so many veggies it feels like eating a whole vegetable garden in one sitting.
Now excuse me while I go help myself to another serve...
6 medium zucchini
2 to 3 small Italian or Japanese eggplants (¾ lbs / 340 gr), trimmed, split in half lengthwise, and cut into ⅜-inch half moons (or chopped into chunks, your choice)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (adjust to taste)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (28-oz) can diced tomatoes, (I used Muir Glen)
Handful fresh small basil leaves, roughly chopped
2 oz / 56 gr aged ricotta salata, finely grated (if you can’t find it, use Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese.)
Using a spiralizer or peeler create zucchini spaghetti (always read the directions for your spiralizer as they vary by brand - I use this spiralizer.) If you don't have a spiralizer use a regular vegetable peeler to vertically peel long, thin strips of the zucchini. This will form more of a wider "noodle" from the zucchini, like fettuccini.
Transfer zoodles to a large bowl and set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a 12-inch nonstick (or cast iron) skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add as much eggplant as fits in a single layer and season with salt. Cook, shaking pan occasionally, until eggplant is well browned on both sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer eggplant to a plate lined with paper towels and set aside. Repeat with remaining eggplant, adding olive oil as necessary, until all eggplant is browned.
Add any remaining olive oil and increase heat to medium-high.
Add garlic, oregano, and pepper flakes, and cook, stirring constantly, until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly until evenly incorporated and tomato paste starts to fry. Add diced tomatoes. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce to a bare simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is thickened into a sauce-like consistency, about 10 to 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt. Add fried eggplant and toss to combine.
Add zoodles to skillet and toss. Cook for a couple of minutes, until all is heated through.
Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, garnish with grated ricotta salata and torn basil leaves and serve.
One serving yields 348 calories, 26 grams of fat, 28 grams of carbs, and 8 grams of protein.